What the iPhone wants from humanity
Remember the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey?
Primitive, violent, man-apes, fighting each other with nothing but bones, are suddenly confronted with an imposing, foreign, black slab. At that moment – and as Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna (eternal light) piece kicks in – Homo sapiens crosses the Rubicon into modernity.
Now, fast forward a few thousand years and consider the optics of man-apes worshiping the black slab at the Apple Store. Take stock of how our lives and minds changed since that fateful day in January, 2007 when the first iPhone was announced.
Look around you.
Marvel at those humans, hunched down and removed from the world, with their reality-cancellation AirPods, face diapers, and sunglasses; itching, yearning for something, anything, to whisk them away from the real world.
Looking back, historians will hail – or bemoan – the introduction of the iPhone as a pivotal juncture in history, wherein our species crossed into a new era.
Compared to fifteen years ago, humans have less freedoms, less privacy, and significantly reduced attention spans. Smart devices have supplanted our ability to navigate, think, remember, and communicate.
So let us be clear about what’s happening here.
The iPhone and its “smart” friends are not augmenting us – they are changing us.
The unstated, yet obvious, directive of the iPhone and its “smart” spawns is to diminish and supplant human nature. And in today’s piece, I will tell you exactly how.
. . .
A few days ago, I walked into a department store to check out the recently launched iPhone 14 Pro.
Everything from the austere minimalism – a dearth of buttons, ports, and tactile switches – to the menacing cut of the speaker grills in “surgical-grade” stainless steel; everything reeks of Brutalism, an aesthetic that elevates materials and construction above humans.
Each swipe against the unyielding “Ceramic Shield” display betrays the power imbalance between the synthetic and the organic; the state-of-the-art and the obsolete; their future and our past. Make no mistake, the agenda of the iPhone, and of the coterie of “smart” things infiltrating our lives, is not about serving humans.
This may be hard to believe, especially to those who’ve followed Apple for awhile. After all . . .
Apple used to be a cheerleader for humanism.
How could the essence of Apple’s logo be anything other than the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge?
Every bitten Apple on the back of every iPhone and MacBook out there is a reminder of that biblical moment when technology replaced innocence. But it was all good because technology served humans. Computers were “the bicycle of the mind” and humans were in control.
Humans were in control, right?
Wrong. Humans were never in control but humanism made it look like they were. As it turns out, humanism was a historic fraud designed to rob humans from guidance, safety and protection – physical and metaphysical.
Humanism, like all ideologies ending in -ism, is the exact opposite of what it portends to be. It is anti-human in the same way that feminism is anti-female and environmentalism is anti-environment.
And it is now, at that ripe time when humans are completely divided, deluded and helpless, that the masks can finally drop. The iPhone and its “smart” accomplices don’t have to wear the humanist mask anymore.
“Meet the new face of iPhone,” says their website.
Apple has always personified its products – by avoiding the use of definite articles when referring to them – but the iPhone now has a new face you have to meet.
The iPhone is not pretending to serve humans anymore. Rather, it is us, humans, that have to yield to its authority.
Stated another way, humans are not meant to use the iPhone. They are meant to worship and serve it.
Humanism was a gateway drug to a new religion, and it paved the way to a new order. In this new state of affairs, humans are nothing but:
Beasts of labor, working all day to fund the production of “smart” things and “smart” grids.
Data cows, farmed in city pods and milked for their biometric, health and location metrics. Their personal discussions, intimate preferences and thoughts, their entire life can only exist in as far as it feeds data to machine-learning algorithms and AI.
Those claims may sound preposterous so let’s substantiate them with examples. I will go ahead and use the advertised features of the latest iPhone 14 Pro as evidence of this ominous roadmap for humanity.
Feature 1: Dynamic Island
Apple’s marketing spiel positions this feature as a “magical new way to interact with iPhone”.
Here is what they are not telling you.
The Dynamic Island is a beautification and embellishment of what used to be an ugly, protruding notch at the top of the iPhone display. In previous models the front camera and sensors were separate from the user experience. Now they are an inseparable part of it. To interact with the Dynamic Island you literally have to tap on, or around, the camera.
As innocent as it may look, this feature is a Trojan horse.
By infusing the camera into the user experience in such a deep, visceral way, the user has no option but to accept it as an integral part of their digital lives. The raison d'être of the Dynamic Island is to interject the camera into everything that you do with your iPhone.
Case in point:
Millions of users are using stickers to cover up their smartphone camera. How will those people interact with the Dynamic Island? Capacitive touchscreens don’t work with stickers.
The loss of optionality is subtle and forceful at the same time. As this feature becomes mainstream, users will lose the option of keeping their lives private.
“But the user can always put their phone away, no?”
Maybe, maybe not. Let’s look at the next “feature” of the new iPhone.
Feature 2: Always-on display
The iPhone display is now “always glanceable,” Apple says. No need to tap on it, or do anything for that matter. The iPhone is always at the periphery of your vision, displaying compelling stuff so you can “stay in the know.”
In other words, people will have even more reasons to keep their iPhone on the dinner table.
Why put the phone away when you can “stay in the know” about important things, like what the time is, or what Instagram thinks of your latest frappuccino – all without lifting a finger?
People don’t have to use this feature, of course, and they can always put their phone in their pockets, if they choose to – but most of them won’t.
Welcome to a world where you won’t be able to speak to your loved ones without an iPhone, or two, or three, staring at you with their Face ID cameras and hyperactive sensors.
Not dystopian at all. Nothing to do with Big Brother from 1984, nothing whatsoever.
Feature 3: Passkeys
Passkeys remove the need for passwords. Instead of having to type a long string of characters, you can scan your face (or finger) and Apple will authenticate you into any and all websites.
By negating passwords, Apple says that it is making the web safer. No more compromised identities, no more “12345” passwords, no more getting locked out or hacked. Users sign-up and sign-in instantly, effortlessly, and safely.
Here is what they are not telling you.
By replacing user-generated credentials, Apple is taking over your digital identity. Eventually, it will not be possible to sign-in to websites anonymously. Every account you create will be tied to the real you.
Keep in mind that Apple requires an Apple ID before you can download any apps on your iPhone and iPad, which means they already know your name, address, and in many cases your credit card information too.
Think of the implications to your privacy and freedom of expression. What if you say the wrong thing online? Apple could be compelled to turn-off your access to the entire web. You’d lose access to social networks, grocery shopping websites, banks, taxi services, and everything else you need to run your life.
Consider the leverage those companies – and their handlers – will have on the masses. Passkeys is, hands down, the most dystopian technology ever foisted on unsuspecting users.
Feature 4: Removal of the SIM tray
Starting with the iPhone 14, Apple is removing the physical SIM tray from their handsets (in the US, with plans to expand globally).
“Unlike a physical card,” Apple points out, the “eSIM can’t be removed if your iPhone is stolen”. Once again, Apple wants to keep you safe.
Here is what they are not telling you.
Switching cellular networks is no longer as simple as swapping SIM cards. You now need to go through the carrier identification process, which works in tandem with Apple’s stronghold of your identity.
Before you dismiss this concern as a nothing-burger, consider that in some countries (Mexico, for example) you can can walk into a mom-and-pop shop and buy a SIM card without needing an ID or passport document. The iPhone 14 eliminates this option once and for all.
Once again, millions of users lose out on their freedom and privacy.
What can we do?
In December last year, I wrote a big piece on privacy phones and prefaced it with this:
Imagine a day without dozens of geo-tagging cameras, wide spectrum microphones, and micro-location sensors monitoring everything that you do.
Imagine books, maps, and dictionaries made out of paper instead of super-retina displays. Imagine relationships made out of heart-beating humans instead of Tinder scam bots.
Believe it or not, all those radical things are still within reach.
Want more privacy? Then do more of what humans do. Human nature is naturally private.
In July this year, in a piece called “How to get our lives back,” I described a different way of using our smartphones.
The secret lies in changing how we view our handsets. In as few words as possible, their default state needs to be OFF. They need to be a just-in-case tool. When we need them for a task, we switch them ON and, once done, we promptly switch them back OFF.
Your smartphone is not amoral and it is not an extension of your life and your agenda. The iPhone is a product and extension of trillion dollar entities. They are larger than most countries and institutions. If you think that they don’t have a razor-sharp vision for each and every one of their handsets, I’d urge you to reconsider.
You and I are not allowed in their board meetings, their private conventions, and behind-the-scenes conclaves. But we happily give them front-and-center seats at our dinner table, our bedroom, and even our toilet for good measure. They know everything about us; we know nothing about them.
The iPhone is their ticket to our lives, their grip on our freedoms, and curb on our destiny.
If we let it.
If we want to turn this power dynamic on its head, I suggest we change how we operate our handsets.
Let’s make the iPhone work for us — use it, but don’t let it use us.
We can start by switching it off.
Okay, time for some housekeeping.
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